Sinead Hayes was comforted by her extended family and close friends as well as hundreds of friends, neighbours, and colleagues of Larry and Martina Hayes at their funeral Mass in the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Athlone.
Beforehand, Sinead had personally waited at the entrance of the church to greet early arrivals for her parents’ funeral Mass and to thank them for their support.
Parish priest Canon Liam Devine told the community that they did not have to wait for Holy Week to experience Good Friday.
“This is a Calvary moment for the Hayes and Kelly families and for you, Sinead, in particular. It is particularly sad because today is your birthday,” Canon Devine said.
“Could anyone think of a sadder or more heart-rending way to celebrate your birthday than to attend the funeral of both of your parents?”
He said that nothing — no human experience of grief or loss — could have prepared a family or a community for the devastating news that filtered through to Athlone last weekend. Mourners heard that the violent deaths of Larry and Martina had left the entire community “shocked, stunned, and devastated”.
Mourners also heard that while the violence of misguided Islamic State terrorist fanatics had previously invaded our living rooms in a sanitised way, it now invaded the community of Athlone in the shape of two coffins which lay before the altar.
“The appalling massacre of Larry and Martina and 36 others at the hands of a crazed, brain-washed fanatic on a beach in Sousse has stunned the entire nation into disbelief,” Canon Devine said.
“It exposes us to the reality that we live in a very violent, broken world and it is getting smaller. The violence is now at our own doorstep.”
Canon Devine described Larry and Martina as soulmates. They shared a common interest in gardening and Martina’s home was her castle. She had worked in the town, while Larry was a plasterer by trade and had spent the last 20 years working with Bus Éireann, where he was a schools transport inspector.
“Together in life. Together in death,” said Canon Devine. “We commend their gentle souls to the eternal peace of God’s presence. That peace will never again be shattered by an assassin’s bullet.
“They will be together forever. May they both rest in peace.”
The enormous attendance at the Mass spilled out onto the grounds of the church as hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to the popular couple.
More than 50 uniformed colleagues of Larry’s from Bus Éireann arrived to form a guard of honour, alongside Sinead’s colleagues from the Order of Malta.
Gifts brought to the altar during the service included Larry’s Bus Éireann tie and flowers from Martina’s garden.
Prayers were said for all who had suffered in the Tunisian tragedy.
At the conclusion of Mass, Larry’s brother, Michael Hayes, thanked all who had helped the family through the difficult days of the last week.
He said he was particularly grateful to Declan Carty, husband of Lorna Carty of Co Meath, who was also shot dead in the terrorist attack in Sousse.
Mr Carty had come to have a few words with the family in person at Dublin Airport as the remains came home and his gesture was deeply appreciated.
Michael Hayes noted that a smiling photo of Larry and Martina had been published on the front page of a national newspaper and that it truly represented what they were — a happy couple who had been married for 32 years.
The events in Sousse had left the entire extended family with a great sense of loss, he said.
“They loved their new house, their life together, and their darling daughter, Sinead. Ní fheicfimid a leithéid arís ann,” he added, to an ovation from the congregation.
The President and Taoiseach were represented by their aides de camp, while the chairman of Bus Éireann, Aidan Murphy, and chief executive Martin Nolan also attended.
The chief executive of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, Dr. Umar Al-Qadri, was also present to pay his respects.
Coinciding with the funeral, a minute’s silence was observed at all Bus Éireann locations nationwide and flags at the Broadstone head office in Dublin flew at half mast.
Due to high anticipated traffic in Athlone town on Fri, July 3 for the Hayes' funerals, we will suspend services between 10.30am and 12.15pm— Bus Éireann (@Buseireann) July 3, 2015
The cortege, flanked by the guard of honour, made its way through Athlone for the burial at Coosan cemetery.